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Healthy Ministry in Complicated Times

Pastoring

No Such Thing As Prominent Service

CC BY 2.0, Link
CC BY 2.0, Link

I’m not a Bob Dylan fan, although his album Modern Times served as the soundtrack for writing my thesis back in 2006.

I am impressed, though, by his unreachability when awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature. The New York Times reports:

Instead of declining the prize, he has simply declined to acknowledge its existence. He hasn’t issued a statement or even returned the Swedish Academy’s phone calls. A reference to the award briefly popped up on the official Bob Dylan website and then was deleted — at his instruction or not, nobody knows. And the Swedes, who are used to a lot more gratitude from their laureates, appear to be losing their patience: One member of the Academy has called Mr. Dylan’s behavior “impolite and arrogant.”

I don’t know why Dylan has refused to acknowledge the prize. He has been, as the Times says, “hard to interpret, both as a person and as a lyricist.”

I do know, however, that his example does me good.

We like to be noticed and appreciated. This isn’t wrong; God made us to thrive when we’re encouraged. The problem comes when we begin to live for the approval of people rather than the approval of God. When we live for people’s approval, we forfeit God’s approval, Jesus says (Matthew 6:1).

While it’s nice to be encouraged and recognized, it’s not essential, and it’s not a measure of success. As Oswald Chambers said, “There are no such things as prominent service and obscure service; it is all the same with God.”

What this means is this: never measure success in ministry by the amount of human approval.

Whose approval do we crave? As pastors, it’s easy to get this wrong. Human approval is nice, but like Dylan we can basically ignore it. It’s God’s approval that really counts.

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